Fledgling fan group pushes for safe standing at Riverside

Riverside Stadium Middlesbrough Photo Paul Hudson

Like countless other sets of supporters up and down the country, Middlesbrough fans overwhelmingly back safe standing.

In the summer of 2017 a survey organised by the Middlesbrough Supporters Forum showed that 94% of Boro fans supported fans being given the choice of whether to sit or stand at the match.

Since publishing that report, the Forum has continued to promote safe standing locally by meeting with the club and, along with representatives of five Teesside MPs, sought to build political support for the campaign.

“Safe standing was the first item on the agenda,” said Rob Nichols, editor of Boro’s Fly Me To The Moon fanzine, about the group’s recent meeting with the club.

“The club is currently neutral on the issue, but they are listening to supporters.”

Middlesbrough Supporters Forum’s safe standing survey was one of the largest in recent seasons, asking around 3,400 fans for their thoughts on the subject and Rob says momentum is building.

“We gave a presentation on safe standing to the club and representatives of local MPs,” Rob says. “We’re really pleased with how it’s been received by the politicians and hopefully we can follow it up with MPs again in future.”

Formed back in January 2017, the Middlesbrough Supporters Forum is an independent coalition of fan groups on Teesside looking to strengthen links with the club and discuss the big issues that matter to match-going fans.

The Forum encompasses a wide variety of supporter groups and was founded by Middlesbrough Disabled Supporters Association, Middlesbrough Supporters South, Middlesbrough Official Supporters Club, Twe12th Man, Red Faction, Fly Me To The Moon and REDARMY.TV

Safe standing is just one of the hot topics at the Riverside the group have taken on. Its introduction at the Riverside would be a huge symbolic victory, Rob told us, with it being one of the first stadiums built after the Taylor Report recommendations came into force.

“The Riverside was at the vanguard of the all-seaters,” Rob says. “Which is why it’s interesting to see how strongly young people feel about it. The demand for standing accommodation is really significant.

“Young Boro fans have grown up with the Riverside, they started going to the match in the all-seater environment, but they still want to stand.

“All-seaters are all they’ve known but they want the option to stand - this is how they want to watch their football.”

The Forum’s presentation on safe standing sought to educate senior officials at the club and local elected-representatives about the campaign – as well as dispelling myths about what modern standing really is.

“We made clear it’s not a return to the crumbling terraces of old. It’s not driven by a nostalgia for Ayresome Park. It’s about choice,” says Rob. “Safe standing, whether rail seating or one of the other options available, is completely different and in the long-term what we want to see at the Riverside.

“We want our MPs to stand up in Parliament and support us 100%.”

Thanks to Paul Hudson for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.